MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday said that Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson should resign from his post following new case files that detail the drunk driving crash in which he wrecked a county-owned vehicle driving speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour.
Walz is the highest ranking elected official who said he should step down, calling it a “breach of trust.”
“I’m not a resident of the county and I’m speaking as an individual on this, but I think most Minnesotans know and most Minnesotans understand that there’s consequences for decisions like that,” the governor said. “I just wish that he gets the help that he needs to move on with his life.”
Walz joins a growing number of elected officials calling for Hutchinson to step down, including five of the seven Hennepin county commissioners. Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan—who lives in the county unlike Walz, a St. Paul resident—also said “it’s time for him to step down.”
The statements from the top leaders in Minnesota come as photographs, squad car footage, and reports released Thursday provide new details about the crash in Alexandria during the early morning hours of Dec. 8.
The newly-released documents reveal he was not wearing a seat belt when he crashed while driving 126 miles per hour. He repeatedly lied to responding officers, telling them he was not the individual who was behind the wheel, according to video released.
WATCH RAW VIDEO: Dash Footage After Hennepin Co. Sheriff’s Crash
Hutchinson Accountable To Voters During November’s Election
Hutchinson is an elected official, like all 87 country sheriffs in the state and many across the nation. He is up for re-election this fall. His position is different than someone like the Minneapolis police chief, who is appointed by the mayor, so his fate rests with voters should he not resign.
The only way voters can weigh in sooner than November’s election is through a complicated and rare recall process.
In short, recalling state and local officials requires a petition of a certain number of people — 25 people and 25% of voters who cast ballots in previous election for that office, respectively — and the chief justice of the supreme court would review it and decide if there’s grounds an actual recall election.
That has never happened at the state level, according to the secretary of state’s office, which also is not aware of successful recall elections in Minnesota counties. A spokesman for the office said there have been attempts to recall state officers, but those efforts never cleared the first step in the process.
A state officer other than a judge may be subject to recall “for serious malfeasance or nonfeasance during the term of office” or conviction while serving in office “for a serious crime,” according to state law. There are similar grounds for recall of county officials, the law states.
“That law is so complicated in terms of the number of steps to go through,” said David Schultz, political science professor at Hamline University, describing the procedure. “Effectively it’s impossible to recall an elected official in the state of Minnesota.”
State law says petitions for county-level recalls need to be submitted at least 180 days before a general election.